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The Sixth Love Language


I used to think that we all had our hierarchy of love languages, but now I see that we simply want a few sips of grace.

Flashback to fall semester of junior year. The late autumn wind is tugging at the hem of my skirt, at the tips of my wayward hair, tugging at my heart. If you keep hurrying, maybe you can outrun the heartbreak.


Thanksgiving has come and gone, littering leaves across the cracked brick pavement, a place where we left our hearts to break a few weeks ago. The bell rings, releasing a flood of students into the claustrophobic hallways overwhelmed with the white static of raucous laughter and heavy footsteps plodding to the next event penciled into the dizzying schedules.

Busy spaces—it's amazing how one can feel like they're drowning in a crowd.


I glance up and catch sight of a familiar face, an oasis.


My friend is all business with military-tuned focus, a history major with a head swimming with dates and places. But today, he follows the crowd with a slight slump of the shoulders and a heavy trudge.


We acknowledge each other's world-weary daze and manage to exchange slight smiles but even then, my eyes reveal my hunger for rest. He sees; he knows. Finals on the horizon; sleep an impossible dream.


He hands me his coffee canister. No words. Just the offer of a sip of coffee and a wry smile in a passing moment. And in this moment, this is enough, a flickering beacon of light promising the finish line is near, and we will, indeed, reach it.

WHAT DOES REAL LOVE LOOK LIKE?


It's a question that's been binding my heart lately. The more I learn about what love looks like, the more I realize how we get so wrapped up in complicating it.


I work at a place where I see hundreds upon hundreds of people a day. It's easier to love the mom who's running on two-hours of sleep or the elderly man who is scraping just to rub two pennies together. It's easy to love from afar with no risk to my own comfort. But what about the coworkers with their political arguments that has the potential to drive you up a wall? What about the manipulative family members whose flaws come under magnifying glasses at the holidays?

_________________________


Psychologists like to figure out how people best give and receive love through a system of universal love languages that include acts of service, gift giving, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation. We gravitate to these tests to figure out how to best extend love to people, in hopes that maybe at the end of the day, they'll get it right too. But I would argue that there's one more love language that we overlook. And that's simply the idea of showing up with coffee. I guess you could categorize it as either an act of service or gift giving, but truth be told, sometimes life really doesn't allow an hour time slot for a coffee chat and while I'm 100% in on buying coffee for other people, I'm not huge on giving away my own cup.

But I guess, that's the challenge of love: showing up and giving from your own cup.

_________________________


Oftentimes, I ask God how to truly love people. How do you love without giving people the wrong impression, without entangling myself into an argument, without strings attached, without giving stipulations and tacking on my own terms of use? While I expect a road map highlighting every detail with a full-on Youtube playlist loaded with seminary how-to's, He usually responds simply:


LOVE HARD. LOVE FAR. LOVE WIDE.

LOVE FIERCE. LOVE DESPITE THE BROKEN.


My history-major friend taught me a lot about love just within that one tiny interaction amidst the typhoon of junior year. He didn't care about the germs; he didn't have an agenda. He acknowledged the struggle and offered what he could with what he had.

_________________________


LOVE IS THIS: IT'S IS SHOWING UP.


I know. It's hard to believe, and I'm still tripping the simplicity of this advice myself. But I'm learning how to brush away the insecurities, the political agendas, the flaws, the frustrations and just simply take a hard look at the people and not invent a bunch of exit routes when love gets tough under my nails.


Because at the end of the day, we are known by our love we give, sips of grace that quenches this dry and thirsty place.


further reading :: love people, not causes | everybody, always | matthew 22:36-40

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© 2019 by Grace Shaffer.